Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects how the body produces and uses insulin – a hormone produced by the pancreas – which is vital to normal absorption of glucose (sugar) into the body's cells to be used as energy. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, your body may be producing too little insulin, may not be able to use insulin efficiently, or may be affected by some combination of both issues, which lead to abnormally high levels of glucose in the bloodstream.
About Diabetes Treatment
High blood glucose levels can, over time, damage virtually all organs and systems in the body, which can lead to a long list of serious complications, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, skin disorders, neuropathy (nerve damage), and eye complications that can lead to vision impairment or blindness, to name just a few. While diabetes is generally a lifelong condition, effective diabetes treatment can help you keep blood glucose levels under control to minimize the impact of diabetes on your health and quality of life.
Diabetes treatment plans generally include medications and/or insulin injections, a special diet, exercise, and weight loss to aid in controlling blood glucose levels. Careful monitoring of blood glucose levels is important both through home testing, which tracks daily levels, and lab tests, which can give an overview of levels over time. Additionally, monitoring for signs of diabetes complications will require regular eye exams and visits to your health care professional to keep track of cardiovascular risk factors, such as cholesterol and triglyceride levels, blood pressure, kidney function, and other important health indicators. Following through on all elements of your treatment plan is crucial to maintaining your health, minimizing your symptoms, and reducing your risk of disabling or life-threatening complications.
The Importance of Appropriate Skin and Wound Care
Among the most important things for diabetes patients to be aware of is that attention to skin health – particularly in the feet and legs – is essential. Diabetes patients, due to immune system impairment, are more prone to skin conditions and infections. Nerve damage can also impair sensation, which means that sores can develop, worsen, or become infected without pain to alert patients of those changes, and vascular changes common in diabetes patients can impair blood flow, resulting in delayed healing. The combination of these factors can cause skin ulcers and other very serious problems – even when wounds or skin issues initially seem very minor – and can, in some cases, lead to gangrene and amputations.
For that reason, it is very important to inspect your skin for cuts, abrasions, blisters, and other changes regularly. Feet in particular should be inspected daily as well as carefully washed in lukewarm water, dried gently, and moisturized. Any area of broken skin, no matter how minor, should be washed, treated with antibiotic ointment, and covered with a sterile bandage to protect against infection. If healing does not progress as quickly as it should or signs of infection occur – redness, swelling, and/or pus – see your doctor immediately.
Any skin changes, even minor ones, should also be examined by a doctor to prevent them from developing into larger problems. Significant wounds, such as skin ulcers, surgical wounds, or serious cuts or burns may require treatment by a wound care specialist, especially wounds in the lower legs and feet where delayed wound healing or non-healing wounds are most common.